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September 18, 2008

My First Love ... Revisited

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woman and man looking into each others eyes and smiling

Photo Credit: Paul Kline/iStock

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I fell hard for my college boyfriend. He was the kind of guy who read The Economist and had hot abs — the captain of the debate team in the prom king's body. As a recovering wallflower, I felt like I'd won the lottery when we got together. But in a year and a half, he morphed into a controlling jerk, one who told me I should work out more and stop trying to sound deep. It was first love gone wrong, so I ended it.

I was 21 at the time, with every chance of meeting someone else who could deliver those jackpot highs without the ego-crushing lows. Except that I didn't. Five years passed, and still the specter of first love — tainted as it was — haunted me. I wondered if he had come to regret his old behavior and if I had evolved into someone he could value. So, stuck at the office on a Tuesday night, I text messaged him cold and asked if he would meet me for a drink.

Forty-five minutes later, we were sipping Stellas. He had the same athletic shape, the same gray-blue eyes ... conversation flowed. When I caught his eyes on my cleavage, I felt triumphant. And when he offered his interpretation of our breakup (that we'd just been too young to get it right), I agreed. I knew it was revisionist history; I just didn't care. If I could patch together a full-circle happy ending, I could prove I hadn't wasted all the energy and excitement of first love on the wrong person.

"I'm going to have to see you again," he said, adding that he'd call in a few days. In bed that night, still drunk on the promise of reconciliation, I made a list of talking points for our next meeting — the ways he could make it up to me, how it would be different this time.

And then ... nothing. I waited a week before I dialed his number, then convinced him to meet me for dinner, but the hope I'd felt that Tuesday night was growing cold. I'd expected remorse, poetic apologies, and maybe even flowers from him, to atone for the emotional blows he'd dealt me years earlier. Instead, I was begging for a dinner.

Turns out, that dinner never happened. Instead, he launched into textbook game-playing — delaying our meeting, downgrading to drinks, then canceling hours beforehand via e-mail. I knew then that there would be no blissful reunion. He wasn't my rediscovered soul mate — he was my toxic ex-boyfriend, and he hadn't changed.

I told him no thanks on rescheduling. And when he resurfaced months later, saying he "still felt a connection," I felt nothing. I knew then that the myth of "first love" no longer held any power over me. But the power I felt in giving him the brush? Now, that was sweet.


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